Urban Centers: Immigration and the New Frontier

How can it be that such virulent and harsh attitudes and treatment of newly arriving economic and political refugees/immigrants exist in a country that was founded by immigrants, who once felt free to occupy and take possessions of lands without reservations? Even more egregious and hypocritical is that our country, individuals and corporate entities continue to invade or cross into international and local sovereign borders without requesting permission and without the legal status to do so, but simply because of our might. Lets take a critical view of the perspective of President Barack Obama towards Pakistan, one that sounds eerily similar to that of former President Bush.

 President Obama has been asked if he believed that it was okay to ignore the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan in the pursuit of terrorists. To this he replied that if the intelligence was there and the security of the state was threatened, he considers it permissible to cross Pakistani borders without going through the UN or Pakistani government. This view seems to have the same logic of our former President George W. Bush with his doctrine of pre-emptive strike. I would submit that both of these positions of illegal border crossings can only be taken from a position of power. In other words the violation of sovereign borders seems to be a violation only for the powerless or those with lesser military might. As the saying goes: “Mas puede la razon del poder que el poder de la razon”(More powerful is the reason of power than the power of reason).

Our collective history as a nation indicates that every time a perceived lack of space has been an issue since early in the colonial period, expansionism has been sought and accomplished through varied means. During the mid 19th century with the theological and ideological underpinnings of “manifest destiny” the great expansion into western lands was completed and heralded as a triumph of civilization and God’s blessing. Obviously the carnage and human suffering that were caused were ignored or may have been simply considered collateral damage.

It seems to me that for over thirty years now we have entered a new expansionistic phase in our country; one led by the well-to-do, developers, their supporting political friends and higher educational institutions. This new expansionist agenda promises development, prosperity and modernization to the “underdeveloped urban centers” throughout our country. It is not surprising that real estate advertisements for Sunset Park, Brooklyn seeks “new pioneers.” Just like their predecessors  ideologues of expansionism during the mid 19th century, these new pioneers do not feel the need to respect the property of the urban dwellers, because like the expansionist before them they see the working class urbanites just like the earlier pioneers viewed the native peoples before them as ignorant and powerless roadblocks to progress. They also expand and try to move into urban territories, because like Bush and Obama they have the power to do so. The displacement of so many working class and poor people from
their homes and urban territories after they have sustained these geographical areas when urban centers were at one time considered undesirable is simply as immoral as what was done to the indigenous peoples.

My only hope is in the power of the powerless, in their ability to cross borders with or without permission. Can they be stopped? I doubt it. Can they be harassed? Yes! Can we ever suggest a moral equivalency between crossing a border for the safety and well being of your family with that of crossing of borders for oil and economic development profits? Only if we have become as immoral as a society that we can no longer distinguish evil from good. I think we need to reframe the whole discussion on immigration reform by admitting that border crossings are happening on all sides and that some crossings have greater moral standing than others. Urban dwellers might need to build a wall to keep all the greedy developers from trespassing into our territories.